Skulls Of My Peo­ple a cru­cial Namib­ian story

CityPress - - News - GRETHE KEMP grethe.kemp@city­press.co.za

A vi­tal doc­u­men­tary film, Skulls Of My Peo­ple, forms part of the line-up for this year’s En­coun­ters South African In­ter­na­tional Doc­u­men­tary Fes­ti­val. The film, directed by South African Vin­cent Moloi, is also avail­able to watch online for free on the Al Jazeera web­site.

The 1904 to 1908 geno­cide in Namibia car­ried out by the Ger­man em­pire and which ex­ter­mi­nated more than 100 000 Herero, Nama and San peo­ple is a historical event that has never been ac­knowl­edged to the ex­tent that it should be.

Af­ter the Ger­mans con­fis­cated most of their land, thus de­priv­ing them of a means to raise their cat­tle, two Herero and Nama men led their peo­ple in an up­ris­ing against Ger­man colo­nial rule.

The back­lash to that up­ris­ing was swift and mer­ci­less, with Ger­man troops shoot­ing the peo­ple, hang­ing them from trees and forc­ing them into the desert, where they starved to death. At least 80% of Herero and 50% of Nama peo­ple were wiped out this way.

The sur­vivors were then put in con­cen­tra­tion camps, where they were tor­tured, raped and ul­ti­mately killed. It was the first geno­cide of the 20th cen­tury, pre­dat­ing the Holo­caust. The skulls of the de­ceased were then taken to Ger­many for racial sci­en­tific pro­fil­ing, where racist re­searchers used them to “prove” that Euro­peans were su­pe­rior to Africans.

While the Ger­man govern­ment agreed to give back 20 skulls in 2011, Namib­ians be­lieve there are still hun­dreds that must still be re­turned. They are also de­mand­ing to have the re­search re­ports on the skulls re­leased. The Ger­man govern­ment has since apol­o­gised for the geno­cide, but has been ob­sti­nate about talks for repa­ra­tions.

Moloi speaks to the de­scen­dents of Herero vic­tims, in­clud­ing Utiua Es­ther Muin­jangue and the Para­mount Chief Ad­vo­cate Rukoro, and uses archival footage to show the con­tin­u­ing strug­gle for jus­tice.

“We are not only de­scen­dants of the act of geno­cide, we are di­rect vic­tims of that act that has plunged us into gen­er­a­tional poverty,” Rukoro said in an in­ter­view with 702 this year.

Al Jazeera’s Wit­ness series has been stream­ing com­pelling doc­u­men­taries for free online, adding new con­tent ev­ery week. Stream at al­jazeera.com/pro­grammes/wit­ness/ You can also catch it at 12.30pm to­day at the Bertha Movie House in Khayelit­sha in Cape Town, where Moloi will be present for a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion.

A LUTA CON­TINUA Skulls Of My Peo­ple is about the strug­gle for the re­turn of Herero and Nama skulls taken by the Ger­mans dur­ing the Namib­ian geno­cide

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